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Can a Thorough Home Inspection Really be Conducted in an Hour?

by Martin D. Lehman of SOLID FOUNDATION Home Inspection Service
02-01-2006

In my opinion, and I know many professional home inspectors will agree, no home inspector, in any case, regardless of qualifications, certifications, or experience, can perform a thorough home inspection in an hour or less. Hence the name Home Inspection – we are supposed to inspect the home.  Any home inspection performed in an hour is not a thorough inspection.  Moreover, any inspector who spends an hour inspecting a home is taking advantage of their clients, making a mockery of the profession, and acting negligent in the process.

Now, I will say that there are countless excellent home inspectors in the San Diego area that offer a very good, thorough service for their clients.  However, there are those inspectors who for some reason think they can give a thorough inspection in an hour or less.

The following are a couple or things you may want to watch out for to make sure you don’t hire the “1 hour inspector”.

The inspector performs numerous home inspections a day
These home inspectors schedule too many inspections a day and rush through each home inspection to get to the next. Look out for this! A new friend of mine regretfully hired a home inspector who spent 40 minutes inspecting his home. Not surprisingly, this home inspector missed many conditions that should have been found. Not only is this irresponsible on the inspector’s part, but he left his trusting client with costly repairs. This is why it’s best to go with the home inspector that performs one or two inspections a day. This way he or she is not rushed and can spend the appropriate amount of time inspecting the home. Be sure to ask how many home inspections a home inspector performs a day, and if they give you a number that is higher than two – I would think twice.

The inspector is not licensed or certified
This is a warning that the home inspector may not have the knowledge or experience to inspect a home properly. The reason this inspector is so fast is because he or she may not know what to look for. The inspector can end up missing conditions or they may even be oblivious to certain warning signs within a home. Here in California, home inspectors don’t need to be licensed, certified or anything else to perform a home inspection. So in theory anybody off the street can call him or herself a home inspector – scary isn’t it? This is why we have organizations like CREIA, ASHI or the ICC to certify inspectors through tests and education so you know you can gauge whether a home inspector is actually knowledgeable enough to inspect a home.

The inspector is priced low
The inspector doesn’t charge enough for the inspection and ends up short changing their clients with the “1 hour inspection”. Basically you pay for an inspector’s time. This means if you pay a little you get a little, probably an hour. These inspectors are usually the ones that get first time homebuyers and agents because they are the cheapest. I know that a lot of homebuyer’s and particularly first timers and even some agents don’t understand the purpose of a home inspection and how to choose a good inspector. I am warning you right now don’t price shop - THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE! You must ask for qualifications, experience and certifications. If a home inspector charges $250 for a 2,000 square foot house, he or she cannot perform a thorough inspection and make enough money to break even - I guarantee it - they will end up giving you a 1 hour inspection.

Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, it will only help you weed out the home inspectors you don’t want. Also, keep in mind that when you buy a home you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a shock to me that countless home buyers actually invest this amount of money in a home and look to hire the cheapest, or the fastest, home inspector they can find – it makes little sense.

I always suggest getting a good, thorough home inspection. Odds are it will save you much more money than it costs. And even if the home has only a couple minor conditions, then think of the inspection as some relatively inexpensive peace of mind.


Martin D. Lehman is a CREIA certified home inspector serving all of San Diego County, California. He is also the owner and inspector of Solid Foundation Home Inspection Services. Martin specializes in thorough home inspections on residential housing. He is also a member of the International Code Council (ICC) and has been professionally trained and certified by the Inspection Training Associates (ITA).

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